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Michigan's West Nile Virus season off to an early start

James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Michigan’s West Nile Virus season is getting off to an earlier than normal start.

State health officials report a wild turkey in Gratiot County tested positive for the mosquito-borne illness last month.

Angela Minicuci is with the Michigan Department of Community Health. She says the first signs of West Nile don’t usually appear in Michigan until the end of June or the beginning of July.

“So to see it toward the end of May is a little bit earlier than usual…but it’s not strange considering how strong of a West Nile year we had last year,” says Minicuci.

In 2012, more than 200 people in Michigan came down with flu-like symptoms from West Nile. Seventeen Michiganders died.

Minicuci says the recent heavy rains may actually be helping reduce the threat of West Nile.    That's because the type of mosquitoes that carry the virus prefer to breed in warm, dry conditions.

She says the recent heavy rains that have soaked the state may actually help reduce the number of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus.

“When we have heavy rain, consistent heavy rain, the water around our homes, in buckets, in gutters,  in our pools, that water is consistently being flushed out,” says Minicuci, “So because of that the mosquito species, the Culex species, doesn’t have the ability to continually breed because it’s always being flushed out.”

But other mosquito species do prefer the wet weather pattern Michigan has been in for the past several months.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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